Health-related Quality of Life of Adults with Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Jeffrey A. Linder*, Daniel E. Singer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: To determine the impact that upper respiratory tract infections have on patients' physical, social, and emotional functioning, we measured the health-related quality of life (HRQL) of adults with upper respiratory tract infections. SETTING: Acute care clinic from November 2001 to February 2002. DESIGN: Prospectively administered survey. To measure HRQL, we used the Acute Form of the Short Form-36, version 2 (SF-36). For all 8 SF-36 subscales, we used norm-based scoring, in which the general U.S. population has a mean of 50. PATIENTS: Adults who had symptoms for fewer than 30 days completed the SF-36; and were diagnosed with nonspecific upper respiratory infection, viral syndrome, otitis media, sinusitis, nonstreptococcal pharyngitis, streptococcal pharyngitis, or acute bronchitis. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: The sample of 318 patients was 63% female, 81% white, and had a mean age of 35 years. The primary diagnoses were nonspecific upper respiratory infection (42%), acute bronchitis (16%), sinusitis (12%), viral syndrome (9%), nonstreptococcal pharyngitis (8%), otitis media (7%), and streptococcal pharyngitis (6%). Patients had a mean general health subscale score of 50.9, which is not significantly different from the mean population value of 50 (P = .09). However, there were significant decrements in the remaining 7 subscales of the SF-36: physical functioning (45.5), role-physical (38.5), bodily pain (42.6). vitality (40.8), social functioning (37.8), role-emotional (46.8), and mental health (46.8; P < .0001 for all 7 subscales compared with normative values). Results were similar for the subset of patients with no comorbid illnesses (P < .001 for the same 7 subscales) and patients diagnosed with nonspecific upper respiratory infection (P < .001 for the same 7 subscales). These decrements were similar in magnitude, but somewhat different in subscale pattern, to those of adults with chronic lung disease, osteoarthritis, and depression. CONCLUSIONS: Physicians should remember that adults who seek care for upper respiratory tract infections have measurable, significant decrements in HRQL. For researchers, HRQL is an attractive, potential measure of outcome in future trials of established and novel therapies for upper respiratory tract infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)802-807
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2003


  • Common cold
  • Health status
  • Quality of life
  • Respiratory infections

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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